Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I read the I Ching faithfully for weeks,
Cast stones, and sticks, turned cards, disturbed the ghosts
Of ancestors, questioned the stars, made toasts
To goddesses, read omens in the leeks
And turkey gizzards, like the ancient Greeks,
Prayed silently, and loudly, to our hosts,
Who turned out, sadly, to be deaf as posts.
One wastes one's breath and effort when one speaks.

So what I wanted then was not to be,
And what I hoped would happen never did,
What I would do was not what I was bid,
What others dreamed became nightmares to me,
And what they wanted, I could not agree.
It's quid pro quo, or sometimes, quo pro quid.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What to Resist

Resist the urge to implicate your friends,
Congratulating everyone who laughed
When you dispatched the losers on a raft,
Saying, "Bad people will come to bad ends."
That full responsibility depends
On what you meant, you know. Their little craft
Was badly overloaded, understaffed,
And ill-built. I think you should make amends.

Resist also the rash apology,
The calm, familiar words that have no weight
And mean too little. Leave to heads of state
Loud nothings. Stick to rationality
And true proportion. When we put to sea
We knew we would be tested hard by fate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


You were inveigled, you've been telling me,
You say that you were troubled by the plight
Of children suffering, a woeful sight
Not eased by gentle, soaring harmony,
Sweet voices, plaintive, a fine plangency
Like church bells on a clear, dark summer's night.
You've been insulted by the widow's mite
They wanted, to the mightiest degree.

You'll be insisting, I suppose, that grace
Was in the offing, that you raised your arm
In aid of peace; that someone felt alarm,
You claim, was wrong. But mere words won't erase
What people felt, coldness in your embrace.
You may intend no harm, but there was harm.

Saturday, August 07, 2010


It's not infected; I'm quite sure it's not.
It looks bad, but I don't believe that's pus
Congealing on the skin. Don't make a fuss
About a little wound like that. You fought,
You hurt somebody else, and also caught
That scratch. There was that doctor on the bus,
Who dressed the wound well, reassuring us
That you'd be fine. Don't tell me you forgot.

Of course, there was that other blow you took,
The large umbrella on your tender head,
Just after what you ought not to have said
Was said, and the old lady raged and shook
And, swiping at you with her shiny hook,
Unseated you. Let's get you home to bed.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Our Dreams, Briefly

The time will pass unkindly in this dream,
Its speed uneven, as the sky moves past,
The dusk flows by a day-bright, light-soaked stream.
Then stars flash quickly. Morning will not last,
But turns to noon, which just as quickly spins
Itself to evening, and I find your lips.
I kiss you slowly, to atone for sins
Not yet committed — then the moment slips.
We manage at a mad and jagged pace,
And though we grin, we lose some time for that.
The moon appears and disappears, its place
Usurped by morning, and I take my hat.
The day turns into night, frantic and stark,
Then light surrounds me in the naked dark.